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Welcome to the Montana Murdoch blog.

This site picks up where my Susan Murdoch web site left off–with some overlap.

I am a talker…and a worker…and I am grateful that technology has advanced to the point that a techno-boob like myself can actually post work without help, because, despite having been all but gifted a beautifully designed web site by the incomparable Pani Page, updates have become impossible. The work progresses, my thinking about it deepens or changes…and that beautiful site was left frozen in time, too cumbersome to update.

So I’ve decided to leave it there. In part because, for now anyway, some of that work is done (Amor Mexicano), and some could not bear revision (Mother’s Milk). And in part because I think the imperfect journey is the more interesting one. And important to reveal, both for posterity, and because it is edifying when artists talk straight, not only with one another (I am deeply grateful for and indebted to those who have been forthcoming with me), but with the world at large. America loves the “overnight success” story, but I don’t believe in them. I believe in showing the underpinnings. It’s the only way to humanize an overly rarefied, overly exclusive discipline. The majority of the people I grew up with, and even the highly educated scientists and academics I worked with, are too prone to say “I don’t know anything about art”…thereby exempting themselves from making, from experiencing, or, importantly, from supporting it, in their lives and communities.

When you come, as I do, from outside the formal pathways to art-making–in America (other countries do it very differently)–when you make art simply because you are driven to, and find and create for yourself the ways to build skills and grow your work, and when you eventually and at last arrive at places where this formal pathway is the standard expectation–sometimes even the password–you have no choice but to stand on your truth. To claim it. So I try to honor my process of self-instruction and growth. Each work was a step, an education, an encounter with materials I wanted to master, with ideas I wanted to capture, responses I wanted to express, conversations I wanted to have with the world. And sometimes–often, in my journey–they are the result of interactions with people lucky enough to have taken that traditional pathway, and generous enough to share some of their knowledge with me. (I have learned to ask. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it brings out the real, rock-solid, and essential best in people.) I still want all of these things. I still work at each of them.

I am also hoping this blog will bring me full circle, back to writing. I constructed my original website in a strange Bermuda-Triangle-of-the-mind period. I was entering perimenopause–which messes with each of us differently, but for me, a huge element of that chemical cocktail was a foggy brain. I had lived a year in Oaxaca, where my knowledge of the language was limited, thus I got into the habit of reducing all communications to the simplest possible words. Upon setting up my San Francisco “studio,” I entered a period of near-constant silence: no house-mates, no co-workers, no neighbors, a dirth of visitors, even. As I re-entered art-induced poverty, and found the guardians of the dreaded day-jobbing suspicious of my year out of the straight-job market, and not as forth-coming with supplementary work as I was accustomed to, I found myself distracted by stress. And I found I had absorbed the strictures of ten years of writing in academia. So writing became a struggle. Thinking became a struggle. And somehow, something that had always been extraordinarily easy for me–my bread and butter, in one way or another, for most of my adult life–was suddenly ponderous, laborious, uncertain. And that was truly terrifying to me.

Ironically, this time and change in my life also required me to begin writing artistic statements. The results range from painfully earnest to comically stilted–and I honestly don’t know if I am a big enough person not to expunge those from the record, one by one, as I gain the ability to “talk better.” I guess that’s for me to know, and for you to find out…only if you pay very close attention.

With the exit of the blood from my life, it seems the brain may be returning. My old hyper-articulateness is not back, but still, language flows more naturally…and I sort of hope it will have a second life, a renaissance, with some joy and relief in expression, rather than the frustration I’ve grown a little too accustomed to. And this, I believe, is also a part of the artistic journey.

Our circumstances–physical, economic, environmental, cultural–effect our ability to work, impact what we produce, and how we produce it.

So the old site will stay there, bearing witness both to the struggle and the accomplishment of getting it made, such as it was. Feel free to look there. Feel free to look here. And I’ll keep talking, painting…and showing my underpinnings.

I encourage everyone to do the same.

Susana Montana–January 2012/2018

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2 Comments

  1. Fabulous! I’m so inspired. I’ve been “toying” with the frightening idea of telling… revealing… my (real) story. It’s so “not pretty” but I feel a need to own it in someway honorable. Maybe it’s time. My blog would have to be named “Not for the faint of heart”. ;-) hugs

  2. I really encourage you to follow that instinct, wherever it leads, Debra. You have developed your “hand,” so to speak–your skill set–and your language flows easily, with a solid aesthetic. That’s a great foundation to have for the stuff that digs deeper–it gives you an armor for the fight. And the tools to transform whatever it is that needs speaking. I think the world responds most deeply–is healed–by the stuff that goes deep enough to resonate. Sending you faith and my best juju for that leap. I look forward to seeing it. xxoo

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